The Way into the Eternal Kingdom

August 8, 2021 Speaker: Ben Janssen Series: Independent

Scripture: 2 Peter 1:1–1:15

1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

Notice that in verse 14 Peter says he knows he is going to die soon. The letter of 2 Peter gives us the Apostle’s last words, the things he wants to emphasize to his readers before he dies. I come to you this morning not planning to die soon, but I’ve turned to this passage because we are ending a year-long emphasis in our Sunday sermon. And here we find a good summary of some of the important things we’ve been learning over the past year. First, we recall what we have been given, then we are told what we should examine, all while remembering where we are heading.

What We Have Been Given

First, what we’ve been given. It ought to capture our attention when we hear that God has granted to us something, something that we’ve been given through his own divine power. We’ve been given a gift from God, but a gift that only God could give because it took his own divine power to secure it for us. What we’ve been given by God is not something that we could have been given by anyone else, for it is made available to us only by his own divine power. So this is worth our attention.

The Godly Life

What is it he has given us? “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” The last few words, life and godliness, are not two separate things but a hendiadys, “a godly life.” So, by God’s divine power he has granted to us everything we need to live a godly life.

Now I’m guessing that some will hear this phrase and not find this very thrilling. A godly life only sounds to them like a devout, religious life. A godly person is understood to be a pious person. Godly people go to church, they talk about church, and God, and the Bible. They do religious things—all the time! And they are often cold relationally; you feel a lot of shame and judgment when you are around “godly” people. You don’t cuss around them, or talk about “worldly” things. They are intimidating more than encouraging. Not many people want to be “godly” like this.

To this we have to say that there is a lot of confusion about the godly life. There can be no doubt that if a person does not love God and is repulsed by God then they will also find a godly person to be objectionable. But we must also do away with any conception that a godly life, a life that is God-like in some way, is anything but the most joyful, satisfying life there can be; for of course we are talking about the kind of life that the Creator God intended for us, a life that is very good, a life that he himself enjoys.

What would such a life be like for you and me? We get a hint of it here in our text. Verse 3 is grammatically dependent on verse 2, a point obscured by the ESV. The NASB reads:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness...

In other words, Peter can pronounce the blessing of multiplied grace and peace to his fellow Christians because they’ve been given by God’s own power everything needed to live a godly life. If you are a believer in Christ, a true Christian, then you have been given everything you need to enjoy the God-intended life of multiplied grace and peace all your days.

How It Is Possible

How is this possible? Here is one of our misperceptions of the godly life. His divine power has not given to us everything we need to avoid trouble, suffering, and sin. His divine power has not made us exempt from disappointment, frustration, pain. Rather, his divine power has made it possible for us to know the ever-growing grace and peace of God in the midst of such struggles. His divine power has not given us escape from life’s difficulties but empowerment to take them all on.

Now that sounds very religious, I know. But way too many professing Christians are not moved by this because we are missing something important here. We need to notice that what we’ve been given is not automatic grace and peace, but rather access to the place where multiplied grace and peace are found. If you do not take advantage of this privilege, you simply will not know the grace and peace of the godly life, the life God intends for you to enjoy.

Verse 2 says that grace and peace are multiplied to us “in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” Verse 3 says the same thing. We’ve been given all things that pertain to life and godliness, “through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” Verses 5-6 also mention this “knowledge,” as does verse 8. It is unmistakable in this passage. If you want to enjoy the multiplied grace and peace that comes from God’s own divine power, then you will find it only in and through the knowledge of Christ. This is the heart of the gospel we preach. The good news, the hope of salvation, is to know Christ. Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:17 is in the same vein. He prays that the believers will receive from God “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of [Christ].”

You see, it is Jesus, our text says, “who called us to his own glory and excellence.” But for far too many professing Christians, Jesus is way too distant, too much like an exemplary figure of history instead of an ever-present friend and host inviting us, welcoming us, bringing us in to enjoy the feast he has prepared for us. Oh how I want to know this Jesus! I want us all to know this Jesus!

The Glorious Experience

After all, as we read in verses 3-4, the feast he has prepared for us is better than you can even imagine. What he has promised to us is nothing less than becoming partakers of the divine nature, a stunning phrase to read in the Bible. It may even sound heretical, claiming too much than is possible for human beings to experience. But there is another kind of heresy, of claiming too little of what the Bible promises.

So let’s not make either mistake here. What this verse has in mind is further clarified by what follows. We’ve been promised the privilege of partaking of the divine nature because we have “escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” This “escape” is not a reference to physical death by which we finally get away from the troubles of embodied life. That is a Greek rather than biblical concept, more pagan than it is Christian. It is the heresy of saying far too little about what the Bible has promised.

There is a corruption of this life to escape, to be sure, but the cause of the corruption is not embodiment, but desire gone wrong. Everyone can understand this. It is because we humans desire and crave things that are harmful to ourselves and to each other that we experience so much corruption in the world. Whether your chief concern is election integrity or climate change, you know the problem is rooted in desire gone wrong. On this the Bible agrees with you. But the Bible promises a solution, a radical change to the heart and to human desire. It is a gift that comes only by God’s own power and through his great promises to those who will believe him.

So don’t be a heretic by either hopelessness to the world’s corruption or mis-placed hope in some other claim. In Jesus alone we find the real hope for escaping the corruption that is in the world and enjoying the godly life of multiplied grace and peace.

What We Should Examine

All of this makes sense but is a bit complex and difficult for us to hold it all together and know where we should put in the plow and what we ought to do tomorrow morning. Should we do anything at all? Is a passage like this trying to move us to action or does it just want to inform us of something? There’s no mistaking the answer to this question when we come to verse 5. “For this very reason, make every effort to...” And what follows is instruction on what we should examine in light of what we have been given.

Gospel Encouragement

“For this reason” means, in light of what we have been given, granted by divine power, in light of such a treasure, how can we sit by and do nothing? The goal of the gospel highlighted in verses 3-4 is to spur us to action in verses 5-7.

Now there are two primary ways we can be spurred into action. We can be warned of a danger: do this, or else. Or we can be encouraged toward a hope: do this because. The kind of action the Bible consistently seeks is the latter, but, as we will see, this does not mean that there is no element of the former. The gospel is not insignificant, news that we can take or leave with little implication. It is the most significant news in the world, leading us to the greatest good imaginable or to the greatest horrors imaginable.

All throughout this past sermon year, we’ve seen the emphasis on the encouragement to pursue the gifts that are ours in the precious promises that we’ve been given in the gospel. We studied both of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians, where he urged them to live in such a way to please God, as they were already doing, but to do it more and more (1 Thess 4:1). Why? Because he knew that God had chosen them since they had received the gospel and turned away from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thess 1:5, 9). We studied the important biblical theme of the kingdom of God, noting that those who belong to Christ have already entered into this long-awaited kingdom and are free to live as kingdom citizens now, right now!

So, “for this reason,” walk this way! I mean, why wouldn’t you? You see what God has done. You see the escape from corruption that has been granted to you, why wouldn’t you take it? Why wouldn’t you want to press on, to know multiplied grace and peace, to increase in the knowledge of Christ?

If this sounds more like judgment to you than encouragement, if it does not move you to action with joy, then perhaps you do not see what’s so great and precious about Christ’s promises. Perhaps you do not want his escape from the corruption of the world or you do not think he really does provide such hope.

Healthy Examination

But if you do, and if you’ve been granted it by God’s power through the knowledge of Christ, then let’s get going knowing Christ! And here the Bible tells us that the way to do that is to “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,” etc., etc. But what does this mean?

Some commentators will point out that verse 5 is difficult to translate into English. It is not telling us to add to faith things like virtue, knowledge, and self-control. Instead it is saying that “each virtue is the means of producing the next.”[1] Equally difficult to understand is why the text identifies these particular set of virtues, and it is probably a mistake to try to understand how one specific one leads logically toward the next. We can really get into the weeds here by examining each virtue in turn, and it is probably best to understand that these virtues are to be representative of the kind of character that true Christian faith ought to produce.

What then should we do with them? We should use them as a way of self-examination. This kind of self-examination is biblically warranted and “is the fruit of God-centered humility, ever seeking to shake free of all that displeases the Father, dishonors the Son and grieves the Holy Spirit, so as to honor God more.”[3] To be spiritually healthy is to be “alert and energetic for works of love and obedience; the alternative is degenerating into insensitivity and sluggishness, a life of slackness and drift.”[4] Now, consider: which of the two do you think God, by his own divine power, has granted to us? The life of healthy love and obedience, or the life of sluggish carelessness toward him?

That’s what we’ve been focusing on over the past year. There can be no grasping of the kingdom of God if it leaves us unmoved to action, for this is a kingdom into which you have already entered if you trust in Christ. You can no more live the same as always now than you could if tomorrow you were made the King of England. Things must now change! It is the greatest privilege for things to change!

But here again, we hasten to add that the way things are to change, the new way in which we walk is not by a new list of rules we must follow. The way we see Christian virtue develop is a one-way street of increasing in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. It only comes through the knowledge of Christ. There is no other way. It may be one reason why the capstone of our list is “love,” the virtue that heads the list of the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22-23) and is called the greatest virtue in 1 Corinthians 13.

Two Ways to Live

Verses 8-9 speak to the importance of this healthy gospel self-examination. Verse 8 says that if these qualities are present and growing in your life, they will “keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The word translated ineffective is the same word translated useless in James 2:20, “faith apart from works is useless.” You say you trust in Christ, you say you know Christ, this is no small matter! If you really do, then you have a dynamic power at work in you. The evidence of that power—the fruit of the Holy Spirit—simply must be there or your claim to trust and know Christ is in vain.

Worse than that, verse 9 says that if you claim to know Christ but do not see the godly life emerging, do not see the fruit of the Spirit growing, then you are “so nearsighted” that you are “blind, having forgotten that” you have been “cleansed” from “former sins.” Before I had Lasik surgery I was so nearsighted that I was legally blind. I could see, but only if the object was right up close to my eyes. In the same way, if the qualities of the godly life are lacking in your life, then you are trying to get around without the corrective lens of the gospel. You are living each day, as Eugene Peterson put it in The Message, “oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.” Of course you may know this to be true, but you don’t live like it’s true. You don’t enjoy the godly life that God has given to you by his own divine power!

See here what the Bible is saying. There are two ways to live. You can live oblivious to the power of the gospel, but the result of such a life is fruitlessness when it comes to the knowledge of Christ. You might as well be an unbeliever. Your life wouldn’t be all that different if you just renounced your Christian faith altogether. If all your faith in Christ does is give you some degree of hope that you just might go to heaven when you die, then your faith is useless.

Why? Because, don’t you see, the gospel of Christ sets you free now! “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17-18). The Lasik surgery has been performed and it’s a brand new world for you. The godly life is not evidenced in the up-tight living of the religious nor in the self-centered living of individualism nor in the partially-committed living of the apathetic. Only those who are all in with Christ will know the freedom that leads to the fruitful, godly life that God has granted by his own divine power.

Where We Are Heading

I want that life. Don’t you? After all, the godly life is not only worth living now, it also leads to a glorious future, as verses 10-11 remind us. Remember where we are heading!

No Fateful Fall

Verse 10 urges us, in light of all that has been said, to “be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election.” It means what you think it means. We should be “all the more diligent” to assure ourselves that we are true Christians by looking for the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Do we see him producing these qualities in our lives? If so, we can be sure that we will “never fall,” a reference to final salvation.[5] It does not mean we will not stumble along the way. The scripture does not demand from us who trust in Christ a sinless life, “for the righteous falls seven times and rises again” (Prov 24:16). The focus of the Christian life is not on avoiding sin. If you focus on what not to do you will most certain do it, just like being told not to think about a pink unicorn will almost certainly bring such an image to the mind. Rather, the Christian life is to be focused on Christ and the goal of Christlikeness which the Holy Spirit is sure to produce in us as we press on toward the goal.

This is the way, verse 11 says, that “there will be richly provided for you and entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” We’ve spent a lot of time this year learning about this kingdom, but let’s be clear once more. We are not speaking here simply about a disembodied “heaven.” The promise, as we find in chapter 3 of this letter, is the reign of God in righteousness in a renewed world and in resurrected bodies (2 Pet 3:13).

What is the way into this eternal kingdom? Jesus is the way, of course, the only way (Jn 14:6). But if we are following Jesus, if we are desiring his kingdom, then this desire will bear the scriptural fruit we find in a text like ours today, otherwise, your faith is in vain.

Stirring Up Desire

This being the case, it is right, Peter says in verses 12-15, “always to remind you of these qualities.” We know better than to think that the fruit of the Spirit merits for us our entrance into the eternal kingdom. But as long as we are on this journey in this mortal life, it is right “to stir you up by way of reminder” (v. 13), to help each other “be able at any time to recall these things” (v. 15).

Next week we will begin our annual sermon series called Crosstown Basics. After that, we will begin a year-long series through the book of Romans. But may we not forget that we’ve been given everything we need for a godly life now. So let’s not be passive about it, and let’s stir up each other with a view toward the glorious kingdom of God that by his grace we will soon enter.

_________

[1] Richard J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 50, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A Hubbard, and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word Books, 1983), 184.

[2] Ibid., 185.

[3] J. I Packer and Carolyn Nystrom, Praying: Finding Our Way through Duty to Delight (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Books, 2006), 125.

[4] Ibid., 145.

[5] Peter H. Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, ed. D.A. Carson (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2006), 189.

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